East Cameroon : An Ecotourism Dreamland !!

The Southeast forest region of Cameroon , forms part of the Larger block Congo basin forest , that is the second richest forest in the world after the Amazon in Brazil With it ‘s extraordinary wild life , spectacular waterfalls and extensive forest sceneries coupled with a friendly People , the Baka pygmy and the Bangando. The South east forest region of Cameroon undoubtedly represents one of the last remaining attractions of rich tropical Africa . WWF supported the creation of 3 large Forest Parks ( Lobeke , Boumba -bek , and Nki ) which will help preserve part of the Baka homeland . The forest of the region is an integral part of the life style of two particular groups of cameroonian people : Baka and Bangando , both rely heavily on the forest for food , medecine , building materials and cultural identity .

The most developped site of the 3 Parks is Lobeke , that has a large tented base camp ( camp kombo ) meaning umbrella trees camp ( Kombo) means umbrella tree in the dialect . In early 1999 camp kombo hosted the Duke of Edinburg : Prince Philip , his court and Top government officials

THE LOBEKE AREA

The dense humid semi – deciduous forest of Lobeke comprises a flat complex of primary and transitionnal forest and low – lying swamps interwaven with mosac of maranthaceae forest , monodominant stands and forest clearings Whilst a conspicuous share of the habitat is undisturbed , as many as twelve forest clearing exist withing Lobeke National Park . These forest clearings or (Savanne ) are known locally as ( bais ) of these twelve , five are the most prominent easily accessible all year round and most visited by humans and forest Mammals : Gorillas , Chimpanzees , Elephants , Bongos , forest Buffalo etc …

The forest clearings are : petite savanne , Djalombe , Boulou , Djange and Ndangaye . Miradors are constructed in each these clearings to Support the on going Ecological Monitoring programm and accomodate potentials Tourists .
Each clearing differ in accessibility and located at disparate distances from vehicle drop – off – point . Tourists could be offered a choice of one or all clearings to visit with a guide to increase the chances of viewing animals of choice .
However that , Lobeke has something to offer the international eco-tourist , there is no doubt . The tropical forest of Central Africa is indefinably of great appeal to many travellers , particular from Europe and USA , especially as the eco – tourist is increasingly searching out more remote areas and exotic experiences in which to satisfy their Craven to travel .

The advantage of Lobeke , therefore , may lie not simply in the accessibility of viewing forest Mammals , but in the promise of a complete forest experience .

At a time when the few other Countries that could offer similar attractions are always experiencing national insecurity .

Such a forest experience could include one or all of the following .

1 – Gorilla viewing from Mirador or Gorilla trekking in the forest .
2 – Chimpanzee viewing from Mirador or Trekking in the forest .
3 – Elephant / Buffalo /Bongo /forest Antelopes viewing from the Mirador .
4 – Guided forest walk with strong emphasis on General forest ecology and nature interpretation .
5 – Viewing of other Forest Flora an Fauna ( Monkeys , expecially the black Colobus , Birds , Plants , Insects , Reptiles , Animals tracks and signs .
6 – Long Forest hike .
7 – Night walks in the forest ( Galagos , Pottos , Hyrax , Bats , Nightjars , Civets , Genets and sound of Night .
8 – Birds tours ( both for the experienced birder and casual bird watcher .
9 – Hunting excursion with the Baka Pygmy .
10 – Forest gathering trips with the Baka and Bangando , Medicinal plants , bush Mangoes , Caterpillars .
11 – Cultural talks displays by the Local people .
12 – Both trips .
At International level Lobeke is Contiguous with protected areas in both the Central African Republic ( Dzanga – Sangha National Park ) and Congo ( Nouabde – Ndoki National Park ) . Furthermore visitors with multi entry visas may travel to and from the Contiguous ( Dzanga – Sangha ) in Car Bayanga , and Nouabale – Ndoki in Congo Bomassa.
The climate of the area ie relatively consistent with a long wet season ( September to November ) a short wet season ( March to June ) a long dry season ( December to February ) , and a short dry season ( July to August ) .

ACCES BY THE ROAD

Acces to Lobeke is difficult and far from comfortable for tourists.The tarmac ends just two hours drive from Yaounde and thence all routes are logging roads, of greatly variable quality depending on season and proximity to a logging concession.The approximate times and distances greatly dependent on season.

In Moloundou is found one of the oldest German Cemeteries constructed at the end of the First World War making the colonial epoch of the region .

Activities could include for example , one or two days trips into the forest with the Baka to hunt for duiker with nets or Monkeys with Crossbows. Additionnally , Tourists could accompagny Baka or Bangando on gathering trips for medicinal plants , caterpillars , bush mangoes , and crayfish ( seasonal ) building materials , palm wine tapping and fishing trips .

Other aspects would include participation in the renoved cultural festivals as JENGI that is organised every year to introduce new members into this highly spiritual society . Jengi means the Spirit of the forest and in past these ceremonies culminated with killing of an elephant . Jengi remains a highly respectable festival with the Baka community . Other folkloric dances include the famous Baka pygmies Tortoise dance that greatly portrays some of the strong affiliations of these people to their environment .

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